The Daily Briefing Monday, February 5, 2018

AROUND THE NFL 

It’s funny, we had a tight game with some close plays, but Gene Steratore gave us the confidence it was well officiated.  The big play in that regard was the ZACH ERTZ go-ahead TD that the NBC announcers were heading down the wrong road on (until someone whispered in there ear perhaps about the distinction in that Ertz had the ball long enough to be a “runner” not a receiver).  We noted that Steratore was quite animated during the review, and we can’t help but think that he got everyone involved recognizing that this was a runner reaching for the goal line (who can drop the ball) and not a receiver completing the catch by going to the ground.

 

We also think that on the COREY CLEMENT TD, it was good that cooler heads prevailed to realize that a receiver can still have control of the ball even as it moves from hand to hand.

 

These tweets from Mike Pereira and Dean Blandino:

 

@MikePereira

I agree with the stands. It was close but the initial ruling dictated. Good for Riveron/Yurk to stay with the standard that it not obvious that the call was wrong. Slight movement of the ball and slight bobble but slight is not enough to overturn.

 

@DeanBlandino

Issue is control. Looks like he has it initially and gets both feet down in bounds. There is some movement of the ball, but don’t think enough to say loss of control. Call should stand.

 

SOME RANDOM NOTES FROM SUPER BOWL 52

 

With the victory in Super Bowl LII, the Eagles are the 20th franchise to win a Super Bowl.  It comes in their third appearance (also Super Bowl XXV in the 1980 season and Super Bowl XXXIX in the 2004 season).  It is the fourth NFL championship for the Eagles, with three won prior to the Super Bowl era in 1948, 1949 and 1960.

 

With the Eagles victory, the NFC East becomes the first of the eight current divisions that can count each of its members on the list of teams that have won Super Bowl championships.

– – –

NICK FOLES was brilliant on 3rd down in the postseason completing 26 of 32 for 398 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs and a 158.1 rating.  In Super Bowl LII on third down, he threw for 169 yards on 3rd down, the most ever in a Super Bowl (as were his 11 3rd-down completions).

– – –

Foles is the second Super Bowl MVP from Westlake High School in Austin, Texas, joining Drew Brees who was selected for Super Bowl XLIV.  Isidore Newman School in New Orleans has also produced two Super Bowl MVPs – Peyton and Eli Manning.

– – –

The 1,151 combined yards in Super Bowl LII mark the most in any game (regular season or postseason) in NFL history.  The previous record of 1,131 yards had stood since 1950 when the Los Angeles Rams (636) and New York Yanks (496) met on November 19th.

– – –

With New England’s loss, the teams wearing white jerseys have won 13 of the last 15 Super Bowl games.  It is a run that began with the Patriots win over the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX (the Packers in Super Bowl XLV were the exception before today).

– – –

With the loss, Tom Brady became the ninth consecutive AP NFL MVP to lose when playing in that season’s Super Bowl. The list includes Peyton Manning twice and Matt Ryan last year (Matt Ryan, 2016; Cam Newton, 2015; Peyton Manning, 2013; Peyton Manning, 2009; Brady, 2007; Shaun Alexander, 2005; Rich Gannon, 2002; Kurt Warner, 2001).  The last NFL MVP to also win the Super Bowl was Kurt Warner in 1999.

In his seven previous Super Bowl appearances, Brady had a grand total of seven completions of 25+ yards.  In Super Bowl LII, he also had seven 25+-yard pass plays.

– – –

With his 505 passing yards in Super Bowl LII, Brady moved past the 10,000-yard mark in career postseason passing.  He now has 10,225 passing yards.  Peyton Manning is second with 7,339 postseason passing yards.  Brady also leads with 71 career postseason TD passes after throwing three in Super Bowl LII.  Joe Montana is second with 45.

– – –

Although Super Bowl LII had a tremendously exciting finish, its 8-point margin was twice as much at the end of regulation as any of the other seven Patriots Super Bowls in the Belichick-Brady era.  Belichick’s Patriots are 1-3 in the Super Bowl against NFC East teams, 4-0 against teams from other divisions. In fashioning a 5-3 Super Bowl record, they have scored 202 points and allowed 198.

– – –

With 2 TD catches in Super Bowl LII, ROB GRONKOWSKI of the Patriots now has 12 career postseason TD grabs.  That ties him with John Stallworth of the Steelers for second place on the NFL’s all-time list.  Jerry Rice holds the record with 22.  No other tight end has more than seven.

– – –

The Patriots in Super Bowl LII were the first team in Super Bowl history to have three 100-yard receivers (Rob Gronkowski 9-116, Danny Amendola 8-152, Chris Hogan 6-128).

– – –

It was the third 41-33 game in NFL history, the other two were in 1960 and 1954.  The Eagles also won the game in 1954, 41-33 over the Redskins.         

– – –

Even though the Super Bowl featured two number one seeds, the Eagles victory meant that if you had bet on nothing but underdogs in this postseason, you would have gone 10-1 against the spread.

 

NFC NORTH

 

DETROIT

The Bears hired Matt Nagy as head coach the day after his OC’ing of the Chiefs looked very average in a playoff game.  Now, another NFC North team brings in another new coach fresh from a postseason disaster.  Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press:

 

The wait is finally over.

 

The Detroit Lions officially named Matt Patricia their new head coach Monday, one day after Patricia’s New England Patriots lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII, 41-33.

 

The Lions targeted Patricia from the beginning of their search, both for his tremendous on-field success and his relationship with general manager Bob Quinn, and interviewed him exactly one month ago on Jan. 5.

 

Patricia, 43, has spent the past 14 seasons on Bill Belichick’s staff in New England, including the past six as defensive coordinator. He won three Super Bowls with the Patriots and worked 12 years with Quinn, who left the Patriots to become Lions general manager in January of 2016.

 

Quinn said at that time he had a “great” relationship with Patricia and that Patricia was “ready and willing” to be an NFL head coach.

 

“I’m incredibly honored and grateful to be named head coach of the Detroit Lions,” Patricia said in a statement released by the team. “Thank you to Mrs. Ford and her family, Rod Wood, and Bob Quinn for their trust and support as we begin this new chapter of Lions football.

 

“This position comes with great responsibility, and I will commit every ounce of my energy to this football team, starting today. My family is excited to become part of this wonderful city that displays so much passion for their teams.”

 

Patricia, the 27th coach in Lions history, is known for his insatiable work ethic, all-around intelligence and unique sideline appearance. He wears a shaggy beard and a red hoodie, and often keeps a pencil tucked behind his ear. He played college football at Division III Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he studied aeronautical engineering, and spent two years as an engineer before jumping full-time into coaching.

 

Had he not gone into football, former Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich told the Free Press in 2016 that Patricia likely would be a rocket scientist of some sort now.

 

“Maybe he’d be up there working on boosters or something for NASA,” Ninkovich said. “I don’t know, how do you get to Mars? Something like that. He’s very smart.”

 

A former offensive lineman who worked with that unit as a graduate assistant at RPI, Patricia coached defensive line at Amherst College and was an offensive grad assistant at Syracuse before joining the Patriots as a coaching assistant in 2004.

 

He climbed his way up the ranks on Belichick’s staff, where friends said he put in 20-hour days early in his tenure in New England and helped modernize the Patriots’ film practices.

 

“There was a lot of film breakdown and a lot of grunt work to do just to get through that (first) summer,” said Scott Sasenbury, a former teammate and fraternity brother of Patricia’s at RPI. “He said it was just 20 hours a day, just grinding, just trying to get information together for the team to be able to use, and I think at the time they were going from a system that had very archaic kind of film breakdown to putting it on a software that allowed you to sort it, pull it up and kind of go through that process a lot easier than the more manual method. He said when he started there his goal was to save the head coach and assistant coaches time in their day, and I think that was probably one of his early successes was being able to do that.”

 

In 2006, after spending one season as the Patriots’ assistant offensive line coach, Patricia moved to defense to coach linebackers. He spent five seasons working with that position and one more as safeties coach before he was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2012.

 

The Patriots ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in scoring defense in each of Patricia’s six seasons as coordinator, and they’ve won two of the past four Super Bowls. On Sunday, the Patriots allowed 538 yard of offense and forced just one punt, and Patricia said he was to blame for his team’s defensive failings.

 

“Obviously, I didn’t do a good enough job here with the defense,” Patricia said after the game. “Look, that’s a great offense. They’re extremely talented. I’ve been talking about it all week, how good they are. They played really well, we just didn’t get enough stops when we had to. So give them all the credit. They played outstanding.”

 

NFC EAST

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

QB BAKER MAYFIELD has nice things to say about the idea of playing for the Giants.  Tom Rock of Newsday:

 

Baker Mayfield said it would be “an ideal situation” if the Giants drafted him in April.

 

“Throwing the ball to Engram, Shep and Odell wouldn’t be too bad,” he said of Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard and Odell Beckham Jr., the three Giants targets who figure to be on the field in 2018. “Those are some studs right there. Being there, that’s a big-time franchise. The spotlight, I think I thrive on that. I think that would be an ideal situation.”

 

It also would be a bit of an awkward one. The Giants have committed to bringing Eli Manning back for 2018, which likely means that any rookie quarterback they take in this year’s draft — with the second overall pick or later — will have to start his career on the bench.

 

“Absolutely,” he said. “I’m ready to go in and compete. I’m not going to wait lightly, but obviously sitting behind Eli would be a great situation.”

 

 

PHILADELPHIA

Peter King is really good at getting to the bottom of things, and herein he has the story of the TREY BURTON-NICK FOLES TD pass:

 

• Reich told me the kernel of the idea originated from an industrious Eagles quality-control coach, Press Taylor. Said Reich: “Press has this, what we call this vault of trick plays. It’s an immense vault, so every week we go into Press’s vault looking for plays.” Taylor, it appears, found the play in a meaningless Week 17 game in 2016. At 1:10 this morning, The MMQB’s Kalyn Kahler found a play from the Chicago-Minnesota game that doubtless led to Target left bunch, Philly special. Bears running back Jeremy Langford took a direct snap from center, quarterback Matt Barkley lined up behind the right tackle, and wideout Cam Meredith circled back behind Langford and took a pitch from him. Barkley leaked out of the backfield into the end zone. No one covered him. At the 11-yard line, Meredith tossed the ball to Barkley, two yards deep in the end zone. Touchdown. Watch that play and keep it in mind. You’ll need it. “We’re fine with ideas coming from anywhere,” Reich said. “Doug loves ideas.”

 

• The Patriots are known for their exhaustive research to discover the roots of a play, with mad scientist/analytics expert Ernie Adams knowing every play a team might run going back at least a couple of years. But if a play hasn’t been run by the Eagles, how would Adams have seen it? And how would Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia been able to prepare for it?

 

• Why Burton as the triggerman? He was recruited as a dual-threat quarterback out of high school in Florida. He pitched in high school. So Pederson knew Burton could throw it—and he saw it when the team practiced the play some this month. And the Eagles knew the Patriots wouldn’t expect Burton to throw a pass. In his four NFL seasons, he hadn’t thrown a single one.

 

• The Super Bowl’s a big stage. The Eagles practiced the play in privacy back in Philadelphia—in fact, they thought they might use it against Minnesota but didn’t need it in the 38-7 NFC title win 15 days ago—but once they got to Minneapolis, they didn’t want to expose it to prying eyes of outsiders, a few of whom are at every practice. They ran it twice on Friday afternoon in a walk-through practice at their Mall of America hotel, the Radisson Blu, a five-minute walk from the Orange Julius, seven minutes from Shake Shack. On one of the attempts, Burton threw behind Foles, but the quarterback reached behind him and made a nice grab. Burton didn’t beg, but he asked Pederson stridently, “Can we run this?”

 

• Foles had not been thrown a pass since his first season quarterbacking the Arizona Wildcats in 2009. He caught it … for a loss of nine yards.

 

This is what it takes to stun the Patriots: a play they’d never seen run by the Eagles, with a passer who’d never thrown an NFL pass, and a receiver who’d never been thrown an NFL pass.

 

It was:

 

– The second postseason TD pass ever caught by a quarterback.  The first was earlier in this preseason when Marcus Mariota of the Titans was on the receiving end of a 6-yard pass that he himself threw. 

 

– The first postseason TD pass ever thrown by a tight end and only the 7th TD pass thrown by a tight end in any game.  There had been one non-scoring postseason completion thrown by a tight end – Kellen Winslow of the Chargers in the 1980 AFC Championship Game had a 28-yard completion.

 

– The first TD pass ever thrown in any NFL game by a tight end to a quarterback.

– – –

Peter King on this being a win for backup QBs – Coach Doug Pederson, OC Frank Reich and Foles:

 

The Eagles were as euphoric a team in the locker room as I recall after a Super Bowl. Pure happiness. Not a bit of guile. Reich said it, Pederson said it, a couple of players said it: This was a great football game, with two excellent teams (well, excellent offenses anyway) playing at their peak, without being cowed by the stage. And playing without being chippy.

– – –

The backup thing really is crazy. Backup quarterback as coach, as coordinator, as quarterback. Foles had a 115.7 rating in this postseason, completing 73 percent of his passes. Just crazy. It’s clear Foles has complete confidence in what’s drawn up during the week by Reich (with help from the Press Taylors all over his coaching staff) and called by Pederson on Sunday.

 

 Brandon Graham pokes the ball out of Tom Brady’s grip, a pivotal moment in Super Bowl LII.

NFL

Underdog Eagles Played Fearlessly Against the Patriots, and Now They’re Super Bowl Champions

It’s what’s wonderful about football. No one saw this coming when Carson Wentz went down in mid-December with his torn ACL. Whoever says they did is a liar. But that’s football. Pederson preaches treating his foes as “faceless opponents,” and you can be sure he didn’t go all gee-whiz about Belichick and Brady in the run-up to this game. Learn the man across from you. Learn everything. Forget the noise. His preaching worked. The backups are on top of the mountain today.

 

“That sounds pretty sweet,” Reich said in a quiet moment an hour after the game, thinking about the backups beating the legends. “Especially against those two. Those guys are legends. They are literally living legends. If you want to be champions, there can’t be any better way of doing it than beating Coach Belichick and Tom Brady, and doing it the way we did it.”

 

I told Pederson he was the Brett Favre of coaches now. He’ll wing it, and he’ll take his chances, and he won’t be safe. He’ll lose some games he probably should have won, but that’s okay. He’ll be bold, and his players will love him. And man, with the Wentz-Foles depth chart going forward, this could be the start of a great run in a place with a big-league inferiority complex.

 

“Hey,” Pederson said, shrugging his shoulders, “you just gotta keep throwing the ball. Keep slinging the mud.”

 

The next big thing, folks, is going to be pretty fun to watch.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

ATLANTA

Arthur Blank signals that he hopes QB MATT RYAN will do him the same kind of favor TOM BRADY has done for the Patriots – although Ryan’s wife is not a multi-millionaire.  D. Orlando Ledbetter in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

 

Quarterback-starved NFL teams are making bizarre moves that could affect the Falcons’ negotiations for a contract extension with quarterback Matt Ryan.

 

However, Falcons owner Arthur Blank said he did not pay much attention to the trade of Alex Smith from the Chiefs to the Redskins and the impending Kirk Cousins free-agent financial bonanza.

 

“I don’t care about the other quarterbacks’ movement,” Blank told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Friday. “What I care about is taking care of our quarterback in a way that’s respectful to him and in a way that is respectful to the franchise.”

 

Ryan is set to make $19.25 million on the final year of his six-year, $103.75 million contract that he signed in July 2013. The team has said signing Ryan to a long-term extension is their No. 1 offseason priority.

 

While the Falcons want to re-sign Ryan, they want to maintain enough salary-cap flexibility to sign key players in the future. The defense is full of young stars such as defensive end Vic Beasley, defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, safety Keanu Neal, linebackers Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell.

 

Left tackle Jake Matthews also is coming up for an extension.

 

Also, defensive tackle Dontari Poe and defensive end Adrian Clayborn are set to become unrestricted free agents March 14.

 

“We want to treat Matt well,” Blank said. “He’s been a great quarterback for us for 10 years. Hopefully, he’ll play another (10). … He thinks he’s Tom Brady, and maybe he’ll play to 44. Maybe we are at the midpoint of his career.

 

“I’m excited that he wants to play longer. But we also have to balance it out and make sure we have enough salary to keep the other critical parts on the team around. You don’t win with one player. It’s not like golf. It’s the ultimate team sport, and you’ve got to have other pieces around him.”

 

If Cousins has a calculated market value of $26 million per year, then what is Matt Ryan worth?

 

Ryan’s buddy, Matthew Stafford, signed a six-year, $135 million contract, with $92 million guaranteed, in August 2017 with the Detroit Lions. Stafford’s average yearly salary of $27 million is tops in the league.

 

“We have to approach it in a thoughtful way, and thoughtfully I think that Matt is the kind of quarterback and kind of person that will understand, at this point in his life, this is also about what is his legacy going to be.” Blank said.

 

“He wants to win championships, and he wants to make sure the team is in an overall team position that we can compete for our own talent and compete for other free agents. Compete and pay well (for) the draft choices when they get their second contracts.

 

“He understands that.”

 

Ryan is represented by Tom Condon, who’s not known for giving teams any discounts, hometown or otherwise.

 

“He wants to be treated well,” Blank acknowledged. “He wants to win championships. He expects to be treated well and respectfully, and he should be. We expect out of him to work with us in a way that the franchise is in the best position to ensure that there is other talent around him.”

 

Blank acknowledged that the Falcons could have been here getting ready for the Super Bowl if they converted on a fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line against the Eagles in the divisional round or if Neal made an interception on a pass right before halftime in the same game.

 

“We were in a really good position to win that game,” Blank said. “We didn’t. I think whether it was execution, the defense or the play-calling, a combination, whatever it was, it was. We want to put ourselves back in that position again and have a different result.”

 

Overall, Blank generally was pleased with the season.

 

“I think we are positioned well for the future,” Blank said. “I liked what we did last year consistently on defense. Obviously, the offense was not consistently (very good). I think coach (Dan Quinn) and (general manager) Thomas (Dimitroff) are addressing it. I feel good about where we are competitively.”

 

Blank attributed the struggles on offense not only to having a new offensive coordinator in Steve Sarkisian, but also to losing key members of the offensive staff, such as running backs coach Bobby Turner and quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur.

 

“I think (new quarterback coach) Greg Knapp will be helpful for Sark,” Blank said. “He’s been raised in this system, and he understands it. Sark, now in his second year, will go through the same transition that Kyle (Shanahan) did in his second year. I knew that was some of it. I’m looking forward to a much-improved offense this year, so is Matt Ryan.”

 

Blank has made it clear to his football executives that the Falcons are playing to win Super Bowls. He doesn’t want them to settle just for making the playoffs.

 

“It’s not really about who can have the best winning percentage in the league over an X period of time,” Blank said. “You have to do all of those things to be a competitive team, but you want to where you can get over the top.

 

“Getting over the top means to be able win the championship, get in the Super Bowl and to win some Super Bowls.

 

“That’s really for our fans and our sponsors and everybody connected to our organization. It’s not just creating a competitive team, but a team that can figure out the edge it takes to get to the next level like the Patriots have.”

 

 

NEW ORLEANS

DT NICK FAIRLEY is done with the Saints:

 

The Saints have cut defensive tackle Nick Fairley with a non-football illness designation, according to Field Yates of ESPN.

 

Fairley signed a four-year, $28 million deal with the Saints in the offseason, but he never played in 2017 after a team doctor discovered a heart condition. The Saints placed him on the non-football illness list after Fairley visited three heart specialists.

 

Fairley, 30, likely won’t play again.

 

It was reported last month that the team and Fairley both filed grievances with the NFL’s Management Council over what the team owes the defensive tackle.

 

Fairley had an $8 million signing bonus as part of the $14 million guaranteed in the contract he signed in March. It’s unclear how much the Saints have paid Fairley.

 

NFC WEST

 

SAN FRANCISCO

The 49ers and QB JIMMY GAROPPOLO are heading towards a long-term marriage according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com:

 

While Jimmy Garoppolo’s former team plays in Super Bowl LII, the 49ers quarterback is moving closer toward cashing in with his new team.

 

Long-term contract extension negotiations between Garoppolo and the 49ers have gained significant momentum, and a deal could get done in the near future, sources informed of the situation said.

 

The lucrative, multi-year contract would mark the completion of a whirlwind process that began when he was surprisingly traded from the Patriots to San Francisco before eventually embarking on a stunning five-game win streak. The Niners wanted him as their franchise quarterback and his play warranted the investment that’s coming.

 

There is work to be done over the next several days, but sources said the optimism coming from the organization has been warranted.

 

The deal is expected to pay Garoppolo in the upper echelon of NFL QBs.

 

AFC WEST

 

THE RAIDERS

The Raiders are done with CB DAVID AMERSON.  Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Raiders have cut veteran cornerback David Amerson, Field Yates of ESPN reports.

 

The move did not come as a surprise.

 

The Raiders signed Amerson to a four-year extension in the summer of 2016. He was scheduled to make $5.5 million in base salary and count $6 million against the team’s salary cap in 2018.

 

Amerson played only six games last season with four passes defensed, missing most of the season with a mid-foot sprain.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

 

Andy Benoit of TheMMQB.com on how the Eagles were happy to see CB MALCOLM BUTLER on the sidelines:

 

In Week 4, the Carolina Panthers came into Foxboro and embarrassed the Patriots defense. You might remember Matt Patricia on the sideline screaming at his secondary, which was blowing coverages the way Mike Tyson did his career earnings. Everyone thought the defense would send New England’s 2017 season down the toilet.

 

That narrative evaporated as the Patriots gave up the fewest points in the NFL after Week 5, but as it turns out, the flush was indeed initiated in that Week 4 debacle. It just took until Super Bowl 52 for the water to disappear.

 

“We knew they had problems when you force them to defend stacks and bunches,” said one Eagles offensive assistant after the game. “You look at early in the year, against those stacks, they were losing guys.”

 

What the Eagles saw, particularly in that Carolina game, was that the Patriots couldn’t figure out how to defend receivers who released together on intersected routes, especially when pre-snap motion was involved. New England righted things in Week 5 (and moving forward) by simplifying into more basic man-to-man principles—and that simplification is what Philadelphia exploited Sunday night.

 

The Eagles consistently created favorable angles and leverage for their receivers, and at times they even dictated favorable matchups. They got some significant help here from the Patriots, who shockingly benched starting corner Malcolm Butler. Asked when they realized Butler would not be playing, the Eagles assistant said, “After the first series or two. We were like, ‘This guy’s not in the game! They have 23 [Patrick Chung] in there. That’s crazy!’”

 

Butler’s absence was huge. Not only was Chung, a safety, now essentially the No. 3 corner caught in a tough slot matchup against the shiftier Nelson Agholor, but the usual slot corner, Eric Rowe, was isolated on the outside. Downgrades resonated at two positions.

 

The plan was “to go after 25 [Rowe],” said the assistant. “We could get Alshon [Jeffery] out there against him. We had Rowe on our team here in Philly, we knew that was a mismatch.”

 

But did it have to be?

 

“It was interesting—we thought 24 [Stephon Gilmore] would shadow Jeffery, which he did in the second half, but not in the first half. We liked our matchups across the board regardless.”

 

Many of Philadelphia’s wideouts said they didn’t even notice Butler’s absence. (“I ain’t really thought about,” said Jeffery. “Doesn’t matter—they’re a faceless opponent.”) Torrey Smith noticed, though. “I’m not going to lie, I probably studied [Butler] . . . ” Smith trailed off. “Well, put it like this: I definitely did not study No. 25 [Rowe]. I watched him a little bit, but I didn’t study him.”

 

Mike Reiss of ESPN.com has Bill Belichick opening up slightly about the reason on Monday:

 

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick is still keeping his reasons for Malcolm Butler’s Super Bowl benching in-house.

 

Belichick was asked Monday to explain Butler’s benching for emotionally invested fans who feel an emptiness that the cornerback didn’t play in New England’s 41-33 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

 

“I appreciate the question, but it would be a much longer discussion,” Belichick said. “There are a lot of things that go into that. In the end, the final decision is what I said it was.”

 

After the game Sunday night, Belichick had said it wasn’t a disciplinary decision.

 

“We put the players and game plan out there that we thought would be the best, like we always do,” he said Sunday.

 

That Butler wasn’t a part of the game plan was a surprise, as he played 97.8 percent of the defensive snaps in the regular season.

 

Butler said after the game that the Patriots “gave up” on him and that he “could have changed that game.”

 

“I respect Malcolm’s competitiveness, and I’m sure that he felt like he could have helped,” Belichick said Monday. “I’m sure other players felt the same way. In the end, we have to make the decisions that we feel are best for the football team, and that’s what we did, that’s what I did.”

 

Former Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich, speaking Monday on WEEI, questioned the decision to bench Butler.

 

“I mean, if it was discipline, I don’t know if that is the best way to go about it,” said Ninkovich, who was on two Super Bowl-winning teams with the Patriots. “You need good players on the field to execute. Bill says it all the time, Bill will say it in interviews, ‘Coaches don’t win games, players do. Coaches lose games.’ At the end of the day you have to have your best players on the field and you question if Malcolm not being on the field is the best option to win the football game. At the end of the day, it is what it is. That is what happened. It is in history now.

 

“For Malcolm, what is best for him is hit free agency. He is going to go to another team here and probably get paid accordingly. I wish nothing but the best for him and hope he continues to play at a high level that we have all seen.”

 

Butler played just one snap in Super Bowl LII, on the punt return team. Eric Rowe started in his place at cornerback.

 

More from Bob Garcia at ClutchPoints.com, starting with a tweet from former Patriots beat writer Ian Rapoport, now of NFL Network:

 

Ian Rapoport

@RapSheet

My understanding is the benching of #Patriots CB Malcolm Butler happened because of a perfect storm of issues: Sickness, a rough week of practice, and a minor rule violation believed to be related to curfew. A complicated matter.

 

The health concerns were known heading into the Super Bowl, as he had been battling an illness early last week that led to him being hospitalized. He was able to return to practice over the next few days, but that apparently contributed to his struggles on the practice field in preparation for the Eagles.

 

Meanwhile, the curfew violation only added to what was already beginning to be a tough week for Butler prior to the Super Bowl. On top of that, his pushback toward the coaching staff’s decision probably didn’t help his prospects. All of this verifies the complexity of the decision that Belichick hinted at following the loss.

 

At the same time, the decision reportedly frustrated some of the players and coaches, especially given how close it came to the beginning of the game itself. This appears to have created some unnecessary tension that could have contributed to the team’s porous play on that side of the ball.

 

Kirk Minihane

@kirkmin

Source: Benching Butler not a discipline issue. Belichick made the call a few hours before game. Many coaches and players were shocked. Some players and coaches “furious” with Belichick, this is a move that divided the locker room.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

NO TO WHITE HOUSE

The media has been quick to find three Eagles who say they won’t join their teammates at the White House for a celebration (presumably on the assumption that Donald Trump is still the occupant).  Ben Rohrbach of Shutdown Corner:

 

At least three Philadelphia Eagles are already on the record saying they will not attend the White House should President Donald Trump extend an invitation to the newly crowned Super Bowl champs.

 

Eagles players Chris Long and Torrey Smith made clear their intentions not to attend even before their 41-33 win over the New England Patriots, and teammate Malcolm Jenkins joined them after the game.

 

 “I personally do not anticipate attending that,” Jenkins told CNN’s “New Day” on Monday morning.

 

@NewDay

Philadelphia Eagles safety and Super Bowl champion Malcolm Jenkins says, “I personally do not anticipate attending (a victory event at the White House)” http://cnn.it/2BWeQyx

 

Asked if he had a message for Trump, Jenkins said, “I don’t have a message to the president. My message has been clear all year. I’m about creating positive change in the communities that I come from, whether it be Philadelphia, New Jersey, Ohio, Louisiana or this entire country. I want to see changes in our criminal justice system. I want to see us push for economical and educational advancements in communities of color and low-income communities, and I want to see our relationships between communities and law enforcement be advanced. And that’s what myself and my peers have been pushing for for the last two years, and that’s what I’ll continue to do.”

 

Jenkins helped found the Players Coalition, a group dedicated to racial equality that convinced the NFL to donate $89 million to their effort. Trump has been critical of players who protest inequality during the national anthem, calling former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and others “sons of bitches” who deserve to be fired. Jenkins raised his fist during the anthem in the past.